Sexting is the term used to describe when someone makes and shares explicit pictures or videos of themselves, their friends or their boyfriend/ girlfriend. Under the UK Sexual Offences Act, it is an offence for anyone to be making or distributing indecent images and videos of anyone under the age of 18.
It is key that schools, youth and similar organisations educate young people on sexting, and more generally on the wider issue of potential misuse of technology and what can happen when technology is misused deliberately or accidentally. Many young people often do not realise that there are laws that govern misuse of digital technologies. It is also important for them to understand the social and emotional consequences of actions like sexting. Drama and role play are good ways of exploring these issues.
Advice for Parents
Nude Selfies (advice for parents/carers from CEOP)
NCA-CEOP have also created a series of 4 really useful videos called ‘Nude Selfies: What parents and carers need to know’, which help parents/carers understand why young people send nude selfies, how to talk to their child about them, what they should look out for and when to get help.
CEOP Campaign: Talk to your children about sex, relationships and the Internet
CEOP has produced a number of resources on the ThinkUKnow website to help parents, carers and professionals understand the issues in relation to sexting and online sexual exploitation, and help them educate and support their children, or the children they work with to keep safe.
CEOP Film: Exposed
Childnet have also created a resource called ‘Picture This’ to explore this issue and this can be downloaded from: http://www.childnet.com/resources/picture-this
Dealing with Sexting Incidents
In recent years, there has been a lot of discussion regarding not criminalising children for sexting incidents when no ‘coercion’ or malicious intent is involved. In light of these discussions, the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) have issued new guidance for schools and colleges in England and Wales for handling sexting incidents.
The South West Grid for Learning also have an excellent resource entitled ‘So You Got Naked Online’ for children, young people and parents. In their words ‘it offers advice and explores strategies to support the issues resulting from sexting incidents’.
Research and useful articles on Sexting
A though provoking article from Australian research on how young people and sexting should be approached: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/oct/31/teens-should-be-educated-about-safer-sexting-not-just-abstinence-report-says and http://yfoundations.org.au/beyond-sexting-consent-harm-minimization-digital-sexual-cultures-2/
EU Research Project: SPIRTO: Self-Produced Images – Risk Taking Online:
The NSPCC have also undertaken a piece of research on the issue of sexting, and their findings can be found here:
Sexting and Young People: The Parent’s View (Research document from UKCCIS and the UKSIC)